UPDATE: FEMA response concerning woman not ready to give up FEMA trailer

Published: May. 3, 2023 at 7:15 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Most people who made it through Hurricane Laura and other disasters that followed assume people should be out of their FEMA trailers by now. But there are still some people who say, due to things beyond their control, such as insurance companies going belly-up, they’re still at square one.

As for as Terra Hillman, it’s not for lack of trying that she still lives in a FEMA trailer in Lake Charles. She said her insurance company, FedNat of Florida, went bankrupt. Plus, she said she’s had no luck with the State Restore Program or Louisiana Insurance Guaranty Association (LIGA).

“I guess it was after September my attorney sent me a letter stating my insurance company had gone bankrupt and that was the protocol and I haven’t heard anything yet.”

She said the home she owns is not safe to live in.

“It needs to be re-leveled, starting off, and you can’t really re-roof it until you re-level it. The pier and beam system took a hit in Laura, and it’s got some serious issues. I had a structural engineer and a civil engineer come out, on my own that I paid for,” Hillman said.

Hillman said FEMA wants her out of her trailer by May 20, and she received notice she’s violating city ordinances by having a trailer in the city limits.

“Not everyone is going to fall into the crack of, ‘They should be out by now.’ This is a five-year event. Laura alone was a five-year recovery event. I don’t know what people are thinking, but it’s going to take a lot of us five years to get back on our feet. My needs haven’t changed. Why are they taking away what I need to be safe right now?” she asks.

Hillman said there’s no end in sight, but she is determined to keep the faith it will work out.

Lake Charles officials said they are sensitive to the needs of each resident and commit to work with people on a case-by-case basis.

A city spokesperson said appearing at a hearing provides people a chance to ask for an extension. Plus, they said the Community Development Department will try to connect residents in need with available resources.

We also reached out to FEMA for a comment. While a spokesperson, Melissa at the Region 6 news desk, says they cannot comment on specific cases, she provided the following information on their efforts:

Re: FEMA’s Direct Housing Mission for Hurricane Laura survivors. Every household has a different set of challenges to overcome. We continue to look at each individual case to determine how a survivor can be assisted with their recovery.

FEMA can’t comment on individual cases concerning private citizens. Privacy laws prohibit us for disclosing Personal Identifiable Information. We can provide general information that speaks to the program.

FEMA personnel meet regularly with housing program occupants to keep them up to date on potential resources, program requirements and deadlines. Housing program eligibility—and continued occupancy—is determined monthly for homeowners and on a bi-weekly basis for renters. Occupants must show they are making continuing progress on their permanent housing plan.

Case managers work with housing occupants to:

  • Ensure housing plans are realistic and achievable within their financial resources and other means;
  • Monitor progress towards reaching survivors’ goals;
  • Advocate for the survivor.

FEMA may revoke an occupant’s eligibility if they do not:

  • Demonstrate a long-term housing plan;
  • Violate any part of the license agreement;
  • Do not cooperate with FEMA during any scheduled meetings.

FEMA is continually working to help families with their housing needs and to ensure those in units are working towards a more permanent housing plan. FEMA’s Direct Housing Mission is currently scheduled to end on June 28, 2023.

More than 76,000 survivors have received federal assistance under FEMA’s Individual & Households Program. To date, FEMA has provided nearly $243 million across the state to help Hurricane Laura survivors. Additional information is available at https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4559.